The arrest of Premchai Karnasuta, president of Thailand-based Italian-Thai Development company (ITD) on poaching charges, has caused alarm in Myanmar’s Dawei communities, where the company is developing the of Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the Myanmar Times online has reported.
The news outlet also reported that despite the unprecedented media outcry over the case, it is not expected to affect the SEZ project.
Premchai Karnasuta, ITD president, was arrested on February 4 and charged with nine counts related to alleged poaching in a Kanchanaburi wildlife sanctuary.
Dawei Development Association board member Bo Bo told The Myanmar Times that the scandal raised doubts over the suitability of ITD to implement the SEZ.
“It is worrying for Dawei people” to see the key stakeholder of Dawei SEZ facing multiple accusations including allegedly killing an endangered species and allegedly attempting to bribe an official, said the member of the Tanintharyi Regionbased civil society organisation.
“ITD’s reputation and credibility have been severely tarnished, especially on the environmental concerns,” said Bo Bo. The Thai public is now calling on their government to boycott his company from concessions.
“Dawei people have witnessed the damage to ITD’s reputation from their performance in the Dawei SEZ project. Concerns over the social and environmental impacts to Dawei people have repeatedly been raised in [recent years],” said the DDA board member.
“So, this case has raised more concerns and worries over ITD’s liabilities [as the company implementing] the Dawei SEZ.”
The Myanmar government should take into account the scandal and evaluate how ITD could be entrusted to develop a megaproject that could affect the lives of thousands of people, said Bo Bo.
Although Dawei is under a separate SEZ legal framework, the government should consider its tarnished reputation before going ahead with the project, such as signing the land lease contract, Bo Bo added.
Meanwhile U Thant Zin, DDA director, repeated a similar concern to Australiabased ABC earlier this week.
“We’re really worried about the practice of Premchai … [if] he’s not following the law even in his own country, how he will follow the law in Myanmar?” he remarked, adding that Nay Pyi Taw “should put the ITD in the blacklist.”
Pietro Borsano, a lecturer at Bangkok’s Shinawatra International University and Mandalay International University, said the scandal broke out against a backdrop of an increasing critical perception “towards malpractice and bribing policies” in the country.
The case received intense media scrutiny mostly due to the Thai public’s mood and the willingness of Thai citizens to “get rid of the double standard which they claim has taken place in other cases”.
But, despite the exceptionally honourable actions of the ranger who arrested the tycoon, “the rest of the story is more ‘Thailike’”, said Borsano.